If you are going through assisted reproductive treatment, IVF and fertility treatments right now or had planned to start your consultation process no doubt you will be devastated to have your treatment plans temporarily suspended or cancelled with no clear date when they may recommence.
It will be difficult for anyone who has not gone through the ups and downs of failing to conceive naturally to truly empathise with the dept of disappointment couples are experiencing as a result of fertility clinics suspending treatment around the country. There is also another level of distress facing couples which is the potential financial impact of joblessness and unpredictability of the near future which may bring fertility treatment plans to an abrupt halt.
This is a challenging and stressful time for everyone adapting to the changes COVID-19 brings to daily life. On top of this stress, coming to terms with suspended fertility treatments will lead to a whole range of mixed emotions not to mention the physical and emotional consequences depending on where you are in your treatment phase.
You are not alone in your feelings of disappointment, frustration, anger, pain and loss or what ever it is you are feeling right now. In recent weeks the number of women and their partners contacting me with their concerns and for support has significantly increased. They are mostly seeking information on how best to support and look after each other and ask about coping tools and skills.
On a positive note, this has been the catalyst for couples to reach out and then sit side by side at home talking openly together to a Fertility Counsellor online about what they are going. Talking to a fertility counsellor about fertility and infertility is something many may not have considered before even though it is recommended by most fertility clinics. What they gain from the experience of online therapy, I hope, is a closeness and understanding of how to support each other in a positive and effective way. Also learning to trust that they have already developed their own coping skills and resilience through their fertility journey and to keep practicing what has been working for them already.
All couples and especially women, mentally and emotionally prepare themselves for the start of fertility treatment, and this is no easy task. They are often working through the five stages of grief and loss in silence after long periods of time failing to conceive or after repeated miscarriage. Assisted reproductive treatment or IVF, marks the end of trying naturally and the start of putting faith in science and a medical model which can feel very much out of their control.
There is a parallel process of letting go happening alongside a hope and expectation that treatment will result in a healthy pregnancy. Anticipating the possible outcomes alongside the worst and best case scenarios is part of that mental preparation and this can be an additional source of long-term stress and anxiety depending on how you are coping all round.
Couples most likely effected with be those who are right in the middle of treatment, already heavily invested both physically and financially. Many will have spent months going through investigations, test and are now physically preparing for treatments such as egg collection and embryo transfer. Going through IVF required significant planing and aligning of home, work and social life for both partners, another source of ongoing stress. This unexpected suspension of treatment plans may hit psychologically like another loss for the couple adding to an underlying cycle of grief and loss.
“Having optimum psychological, physical and emotional health while managing a fertility health problem will at the very least support you to undertake treatment without being emotionally overwhelmed by it and, based on the research available, is likely to enhance your chances of conceiving while doing so.” – Ann Bracken author of Mind Body Baby
Most fertility clinics are still available by phone and continue to provide online consultations to communicate with their patients and I would encourage you to contact them if you have questions and concerns about your treatment. Fertility counsellors have also moved their practice online using secure Telemedicine Software designed for clinics and healthcare settings like DOXY.ME to meet their clients and are a sound source of professional therapeutic support.
What can I do if my fertility treatment is cancelled?
It is important that you look after yourself in a holistic way during this time of adjustment, unpredictability and disappointment.
Re-framing how you think about these next few weeks or months of social distancing will help you to manage your overall mood and mindset.
Consider this time as an opportunity to both love and rest your body so that when the time comes for treatment you will be feeling calm, prepared and physically well.
Try not to think too far into the future but at the same time enjoy making plans that will support your fertility journey and treatment plans.
Take time out and read a good book or listen to an audio book which will help you to prepare mentally and emotionally for the journey ahead. There are lots of good books available about fertility and self-care. Podcasts are an excellent source of information and insight around natural and assisted fertility.
Continue to stay in-tune with what’s happening in your body, keep up your basal temperature monitoring if you had been doing so and keep tracking your menstrual cycle.
Try not to personalise this global pandemic by using unhelpful internal monologues like ‘why me’ and ‘why us’ which I am sure you are familiar with saying. These will only increase your sense of things feeling out of your control.
Spend extra time talking and connecting with your partner about how you are feeling and coping, being open and honest will bring you together.
Verbalise and acknowledge your thoughts and feelings especially your low mood feelings like sadness and disappointment which will begin to ease with time.
Continue planning for your future and practice positive affirmations to help you feel in control rather than letting your mind catastrophise the future which I hear a lot of from clients.
Turn towards your partner rather than away in this difficult time. Make regular bids for connection, have fun and share fondness and admiration together. Connect on an emotional, romantic and intimate level. Avoid engaging in unnecessary perpetual problems and conflict. These are strategies from Gottman method couples therapy for improving and enhancing healthy relationships.
Get your running shoes on and burn off excess stress and adrenaline which will help regulate roller-coaster emotions by going for a swift walk or run out in the fresh air. This is one of the best ways to quickly change your mood and mindset and will in turn ensure you sleep better.
If you find you are struggling and need to talk to someone, many professional fertility counsellors like myself are supporting clients and couples face to face online which you can do from the comfort of your own home. Online fertility counselling is the same as face to face counselling and could help you to cope better together.
Your time will come soon to recommence your fertility treatment and this is an opportunity to be as prepared as you could ever be. In the mean time if you would like to book an online fertility counselling session click here to book securely with Acuity Scheduling.